- The Family Friend (L'Amico di Famiglia)
- Director: Paolo Sorrentino
- Year: 2006
There are moments in the first half of Paolo Sorrentino's 2004 film The Consequences of Love when the director's hyperactive sense of style works against the reserved sterility of the story. Every now and then, Sorrentino seems to get the feeling that he isn't doing enough and perhaps music will blare a touch too loudly or the camera will jump about looking for something new to do. On the whole though, this tendency is kept in check and, if anything, its presence adds to the repressive atmosphere of the film. In 2006's The Family Friend, Sorrentino has the opportunity to give his freneticism free rein.
The 'family friend' of the title is Geremia De Geremei, a tailor and small-time moneylender who still lives with his mother, despite being rather advanced in years himself. He is a true horror of a man, brought to stinking, sweaty, ingratiating life by Giacomo Rizzo, a Neapolitan actor whose first film role was in Pasolini's Decameron. Querulous, pedantic and blind to his own unpopularity, the character of De Geremei is probably the best thing about the film. This isn't surprising; as a filmmaker, Sorrentino is clearly and refreshingly interested in character; the ugly, chaotic personality of Geremia De Geremei echoes through the ugly, chaotic style of The Family Friend just as The Consequences of Love evoked (for the most part) Titta di Girolamo's sterility and reserve. That the supporting characters are left undeveloped doesn't really matter; we are here not for them, but for De Geremei.
The plot of The Family Friend revolves around an elaborate double-cross, but this story emerges late in the film and then almost unwillingly. It's clear that Sorrentino is more interested in exploring the character of De Geremei and finding new ways to show him to us through style rather than story.
Paolo Sorrentino has said that he makes every film believing it will be his last and that as a result, he fits everything he can into it. With his abilities and enthusiasm, however, he will have a long career ahead of him and his audience will have more characters to look forward to.
The Family Friend was released by Artificial Eye in UK cinemas on 16 March and in the USA in February. Check local press for details of screening times. This page will be updated with details of the DVD release.